The next morning we set out, the clouds had rolled in from the evening, blanketing the skies in a dark grey. We attempted to hitchhike to the start of the trail with no success. The Carretera Austral is a super-rural dirt highway that stretches some of the most vast and lease population dense areas of Chile
. Not many cars pass, and those that did, did not want to take 2 backpackers loaded down with gear. As well, we had a black lab that had followed us out from town. He parked himself on the highway with us and would not leave our side. Passing cars probably thought there was a dog in tow as well. Plan B was to start the hike in reverse and walk straight out from town. When we finally decided to walk, the dog followed. I tried walking him back to the information center and asked them to keep the dog while we left and they did not seem to care, figuring he would not follow us the whole way. They were very wrong. An hour into the trail he was right at our side, and continued with us for the next 3 days, right by our side all the way until we finally returned him to town, and his owner, who was happy to see him, and chain him up for a change. We called him Venga, because that`s how you call a dog to come to you down here. We don`t think Venga got out of town much, because he was busy chasing every migratory duck he saw, every bird, and then a poor defenseless bunny. He wore it down so much it gave in and went into cardiac arrest. Venga grabbed it by the back and brought it to us to enjoy. The bunny played dead, and then as we were holding the dog, got up and ran away. He chased grazing sheep and actually cornered one and wanted to bring it down. We couldn`t stop him. He just really wanted to get out and play we think. He led us up all the trails, climbed the steepest sections, slept in the rain, and was right by our side every time we opened up a can of meat pate for lunch or cooked dinner at our base camp
We were stuck to camp for a day due to the rain. The evening it cleared up, and then fogged back over by morning. We scaled high ridges off-trail and attempted to get a view, a sense of what these majestic peaks were all about up close. But Mother Nature said No. It just wasn`t in the cards. We had a great time, and made the best attempt at it, but ultimately came back in 1 day early with the weather closing in around us. After a shower and warm bed at Don Niba`s residence in town, we woke up the morning to leave to cloudless skies and warm temperatures. I wanted to do my best Robert De Niro impression to the sky, ¨You! Oh, you´re good you!¨ Us Vs. Mother Nature - she won this time.
Luckily for us we did not stay out a bit later, for when we caught our bus to Coyhaique, the connecting bus only left the next day for the north, otherwise we would be waiting half a week. The buses in the rest of South America are so regular, you can practically get from any city to any other city of your liking almost every hour of the day. Down here, you might be waiting days, weeks even to get the next transport. There just isn`t as much demand. That will most likely change in time, with paving of roads, and more tourists realizing that they need to come here, to experience one of the most tranquil and beautiful spots on the planet. Patagonia.
After arriving in Villa Cerro Castillo, a tiny village outside of the namesake peak overlooking the town, we hunkered down for the day at the town`s campsite. We walked around the town consisting of 2 dirt roads which took all of 10 minutes before venturing out to see a pictograph site on the outskirts of town. Various pictographs, around 1000 years old, can be found on various rock walls and in caves around these areas, leftover from ancient residents. Back at the campsite, our hot water heater was temperature-dependent on how much wood we burned below the water tank before jumping in. I take mine hot - Caroline prefers it scalding!